Downsizing to a condo often means sacrificing private green space, which can make gardening all but a distant dream for spatially challenged dwellers. By recognizing the health and social values of at-home growing, however, one North Vancouver–based company is determined to bring gardening to the masses—regardless of one’s available square footage.
“Growing food is awesome. It’s healthy; it’s delicious,” Wesley Hooper, president and cofounder of LifeSpace Gardens, tells the Straight. “The question, then, was: ‘Why don’t more people grow their own food?’ ”
In addition to the space constraints, the answer to that question consists of two excuses that you’ve likely cited for not tackling tasks in your own life: time and experience. Hooper and LifeSpace cofounder Cooper Pantages found that the time aspect posed the biggest obstacle for potential green thumbs. As a result, they set out to build a line of foolproof, self-watering planters that could accommodate an assortment of greens—edible and otherwise.
Launched in October 2012, LifeSpace offers a variety of compact planters designed for small rooms. From boxes that double as outdoor furniture to three-tiered vertical containers, each planter employs a patented self-regulated watering system—a hidden water reservoir that allows moisture to naturally absorb into the top-level soil.
A fill-up tube and float gauge monitor the reservoir’s water levels and store extra in an overflow—no need to worry about the common crime of overwatering—so gardeners can simply wet it and forget it.
Considering his background in custom carpentry, it’s no surprise that Hooper takes as much pride in the planters’ clean appearance as he does in the innovative technology. Handcrafted from locally sourced western cedar, the pieces, starting at $349, look much like the condos that they’re designed to inhabit: sleek, modern, and incredibly efficient.
“We go by the philosophy that your garden should be beautiful at all times,” Hooper says. “It’s something people want to be around; it’s a showpiece. It’s not just your garden in the corner.”
Finding a self-watering planter that actually fits onto your 50-square-foot balcony is worth celebrating in itself, though it’s slightly more impressive when you have a blooming garden to show for it. That’s why LifeSpace also partners with local collectives like Gardenworks, Victory Gardens, and the Edible Garden Project to offer its clients hands-on classes to improve growing methods and techniques.
Budding green thumbs can also purchase one of LifeSpace’s seasonal “growing menus”, a selection of edible seedlings that are planted together for maximum success and flavour. The menus work with three-, nine-, and 16-square-foot planters and include everything from culinary herbs to leafy spring greens to “sexier crops” like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Hobby chefs will love the Asian Spice package, for example, which consists of veggies such as bok choy, carrots, and Chinese cabbage, while those who love waking up to a good green juice may find the Juicer set (Scotch curled kale, Italian parsley, and Swiss chard) exceptionally handy.
“We can come as close to guaranteeing as possible that if people follow through with these menus, they’re gonna have some really excellent success and be really, really happy with their garden,” Hooper says, adding that LifeSpace is also working on a series of online videos that will help gardeners see how their plants are doing in real-time and what steps to take next.
In the meantime, the company remains committed to challenging the “veggie-garden paradigm”—that is, what at-home gardening does and should look like.
“We’re always looking for ways to elevate growing your own food to the next level, both functionally and aesthetically,” Hooper notes. “That’s what really drives us.”